An MP in Sri Lanka’s ruling party has died after a stand-off with anti-government protesters and the homes of a number of other politicians have been set on fire as violence escalated in the country.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation came hours after police used tear gas and water cannon on pro-government supporters who had stormed anti-government protest camps outside the president and prime minister’s offices in the capital Colombo.
At least nine people were taken to Colombo’s National Hospital for treatment relating to injuries or tear gas inhalation, according to a hospital official.
As many as 150 people were injured throughout the day, reports said.
It was the first time the opposing sides had clashed since an unprecedented wave of demonstrations took hold in late March.
Some protesters hijacked a bus used to transport pro-government supporters, according to a witness, one of several incidents reported in Colombo.
There were also reports of multiple attacks on the houses and election offices of politicians.
MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala died after a stand-off with anti-government demonstrators in the town of Nittambuwa near Colombo, a police source told Reuters.
Pro-government supporters were attacked in at least four locations as they were returning from Colombo, it was reported.
And the houses of at least two mayors were also set on fire, according to police sources.
The prime minister’s supporters attacked protesters who had been demonstrating outside his official residence for weeks, hitting them with wooden and iron poles.
They then marched to the president’s office, where they attacked protesters there and set their camps on fire. Police used tear gas and a water cannon at the protest site, but not forcefully enough to control the mob.
A nationwide curfew has been imposed, on top of the state of emergency that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared last week in the face of escalating protests.
Nalaka Godahewa, a government spokesman, said all cabinet members had also stepped down.
Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign loans.
Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and tax cuts, Sri Lanka has as little as $50m (£40m) of useable foreign reserves, finance minister Ali Sabry said last week.
The government has approached the International Monetary Fund for a bailout, and has been holding a virtual summit with officials from the multilateral lender aimed at securing emergency assistance.
Long queues for cooking gas seen in recent days have frequently turned into impromptu protests as frustrated
consumers blocked roads.
Domestic energy companies said they were running low on stocks of liquid petroleum gas mainly used for cooking.
Sri Lanka needs at least 40,000 tonnes of gas each month, and the monthly import bill would be $40m (£32m) at current prices.